Its best known role is that it is the steward of a large number of significant sites in England, from Stonehenge to the world's earliest Iron Bridge. However it has major responsibilities in conservation, giving advice, registering and protecting the built environment.
It is possible for members of the public to join English Heritage: membership confers benefits (such as free admission to properties) but does not give the member a say in the running of the organization, which is a direct result of government policy.
English Heritage describes itself in these terms:
"English Heritage is the Government's statutory adviser on the historic environment. Officially known as the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, English Heritage is an Executive Non-departmental Public Body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Our powers and responsibilities are set out in the National Heritage Act (1983) and today we report to Parliament through the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport."
To some, English Heritage are thus an unelected quango with a considerable degree of power and access to public money derived directly or indirectly from taxation, who are empowered to charge admission fees to properties which they have acquired to (amongst others) taxpayers who are already paying for them. This represents double taxation by stealth, which many UK governments have stated publicly on numerous occasions that they were opposed to.